Educational Development Digest: March 2021

Introducing NED Talks!

Network for Educational Development (NED) Talks are an opportunity to highlight and profile a Minnesota State faculty or staff member who has a passion for pedagogy and practice, providing an opportunity to share the good work happening around Minnesota State – and get to know each other!

In the first episode of NED Talks, meet Dr. Brooke Burk, Assistant Professor of Recreation Parks and Leisure Services, and Director of the Center for Excellence for Teaching and Learning at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Pedagogy and Practice

Using and Creating Analogies to Increase Student Understanding

By Catherine Ford

Consider this analogy: Consulting with an instructional designer when building or redesigning a course is similar to working with a 5-star chef when developing or cooking a recipe. The novice cook may be able to follow a recipe and have an understanding of how to use appliances and equipment to create a basic meal, but with the guidance of a 5-star chef, the novice cook learns specific techniques and strategies that enhance the flavor and texture of the food in even the simplest recipes.

Analogies are a tool to make comparisons and can be important strategies to activate the brain, make relationships explicit, and connect to a student’s every day experience (Hammond, 2014; Martin, 2017; McTighe & Willis, 2019). But what if you don’t have familiarity with either or both of the concepts that are being compared? This is the catch.

Our personal experiences and background knowledge is not always the same as our students. In this example, stating that physical brain is like a computer (hardware) and your thoughts are like the computer program (software) only works if we have existing understanding or knowledge about how hardware and software are related. This analogy is likely not helpful if you are not familiar with computers. Although analogies can be incredibly beneficial, we need to have increased awareness about how they are experienced by our students and check our assumptions about our perceived common experiences.

One analogy strategy suggestion is found in Angelo and Cross’s (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. Provide the first half of an analogy (A is to B) to students and then ask them to complete it (X is to Y). For example, a thesis (A) is to an essay (B) as ___________(X) is to____________ (Y). To make this strategy require deeper student engagement, add the word “because” to the end of the analogy frame. Asking students to explicitly explain the analogy can lead to deeper comprehension, strengthen neural pathways, and reveal degree of student understanding. Student created analogies can also be used as a formative assessment revealing degree of student learning of new material (McTighe & Willis, 2019).

A variation of this strategy is to ask students to craft an analogy between a studied concept and something in their daily life without providing a frame. This approach places more focus on making the connections more meaningful to the student (Hammond, 2014).

Do you have a favorite analogy that you use with students? Have you considered how it may or may not connect with existing student knowledge or experience? Consider having students use your analogy as a model to adapt and develop their own relating to the same concept. If you have not used analogies before, how might you incorporate the use of analogies in your course? Consider sharing your analogy applications with the Network for Educational Development.


Angelo, T.A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hammond, S. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching & the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Martin, M. A. (2003) “It’s like… you know”: The use of analogies and heuristics in teaching introductory statistical methods. Journal of Statistics Education, 11(2), DOI: 10.1080/10691898.2003.11910705

McTighe, J. & Willis, J. (2019). Understanding by design meets neuroscience. ASCD.

NED Event Highlight

Minnesota State seeks members for a two-year cohort within the MN REFLECT project

The project brings together faculty from across disciplines, institutions, and experience to participate in a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) faculty learning community. Minnesota State MN REFLECT scholars will be supported as they develop, implement, and present research results at a conference or in a journal. Research studies should focus on pedagogical practices that enhance the teaching and student experience. Members should expect to meet virtually (with possible face-to-face meetings in the future) 24 hours per year, and each faculty will receive a 1 RCE per year (2 RCE total) and $1,500 for conference attendance each of the two years ($3,000 total) from their institution. All faculty who are interested in improving the teaching and learning experience are eligible and encouraged to apply. 

Participants will meet for a half day retreat  in August and September, then monthly (September – November and February – April) to continue progress, share ideas, collaborate, and obtain consultation and support. 

This year, MN REFLECT cohorts will be asked to reflect on their teaching, develop SoTL questions, and explore their teaching and students’ learning using a lens of equity. Additionally, applicants may apply as part of a partnership or triad to expand the impact of the work. 

Interested faculty members must apply by Friday, April 16, 2021. 

Academic Technology Tips

Incorporating Automations in Outlook

By Brock Behling

Outlook, like most Microsoft tools is loaded with hidden tips and tricks that are often under-utilized. 

Taking some time to explore new work flows can address inefficiencies that may exist.  Returning to a full inbox after a few well-deserved days away can be a dreadful experience.

Here are a few quick tips that you can use to help manage your email clutter and improve your email efficiency.

Did you know that you can automate email processing?

You can use quick steps or custom rules to perform several actions at once, or to quickly process repetitive tasks.

Outlook allows you to create templates that can either be a full response or used as part of a reply for similar questions. This can save time when composing messages but when used in combination with rules can actually respond to messages without any interventions.

The automatic replies are often used for out-of-office notification but with the advanced options they can be customized for specific individuals or specific messages and additional rules can be added to either automatically forward to desired individuals or responded immediately with relevant information.

If you don’t want to give the impression that your responses are automated, you can even include a delay before the messages are sent. If you are spending time moving email to specific folders, you may want to create a rule to automatically move these messages. You can apply the rules to new or existing messages for a quick way to automated sorting.

You could also consider tagging messages with categories. Messages can only be in one folder but sometimes the content applies to several. Complex topics like this can be difficult to search for which may delay your ability to retrieve these records. However, Outlook allows for messages to have multiple category tags, and if leveraged, this can improve your search results.

These organization methods are helpful but you still may need to use advanced search options or search folders to find specific content. Outlook can retain your detailed search query to save time if you find yourself trying to find specific messages regularly.

Learn more.

Did you know that email can be grouped?

By default Outlook sorts and groups messages by Date, but there are numerous other tags or attributes that can be used to navigate quickly through a large inbox.

Changing the sorting options to Importance will show all high priority messages that can be addressed first without needing to scroll through a full inbox.

Changing the grouping to From will show all messages from a particular users over several days. This can eliminate responding to a message that no longer needs a response because it is out of date.

Grouping by Type will separate meeting invites and tasks from messages, helping to make large inboxes more manageable.

Learn more
Did you know that you can use natural language for calendar dates?

Outlook tries to guess what you are looking for when you search as it can be hard to use the specific operators to refine your search. By just typing in your specific question Outlook will attempt to get you the results, and this same logic is used in calendar appointments.

If you ever received a calendar invite that had mismatching days of the week to go along with the numeric date, you know how many emails it can take to clarify when the event is supposed to take place. Outlook has the ability to recognize natural language like “next Friday”, or “the third Wednesday in March” when you are scheduling appointments. With this trick, you type in your desired date for the start or end type and will no longer have to click on the calendar icon and painfully scroll through the months to find the date you want. It can even translate holidays that do not shift.

Learn more.
Did you know that you can have Outlook read you your Email?

There are many ways to automate or enhance processes in Outlook. Having Outlook read content can be useful when details are being cross checked in another application, when you are unable to focus your eyes on the moving content – perhaps because you are running on a treadmill, or when you are driving. Some of these accessibility features that can benefit everyone are found in the Ease of Access center or through the immersive reader when connected online or through mobile apps, or even through vehicle integrations, but there is also a standard Speak text-to-speech feature that can be a temporary solution for a specific message or line of content without enabling the full accessibility features.

Learn more.

We hope these tips help spark interest in further exploring the tool’s full potential.

Initiatives Update

The Shark Tank Open: Innovation Expo

March 2 – April 7, 2021

In years past, the Shark Tank Open featured an Innovation Expo with rooms dedicated to exhibitors who previously received innovation funding.  

The 2021 Innovation Expo presentations will be held throughout the month leading up to the 2021 Shark Tank Open (March 2 – April 7, 2021). Review the list of 22 Innovation Expo presentations and register for one or more to learn about innovations occurring across the system. 

Share Your Voice

Call for Teach Together Minnesota! Discipline Leads and Student Panel Nominations

Discipline Leads

Do you feel passionate about facilitating a discussion around equity among colleagues in your discipline? If you would like to be a lead in your discipline group in the upcoming Teach Together Minnesota! event, let us know by filling out the discipline lead interest form. Discipline leads will be prepped with guides and will have opportunities to meet with members of the planning team to answer questions before the main event.

Student Panel

As we prepare for Teach Together Minnesota!, an important part of this day will be hearing directly from students about what is important to them, especially with respect to remote/online teaching and culturally responsive content and pedagogy. We are asking for your help. Can you identify students for this panel? Students will be compensated with a $100 gift card for their participation and we will re-connect with student panelists after the event to hear their feedback and learn more about their ongoing quests in education.

Upcoming Events

Visit the NED Events Calendar to search for upcoming webinars, learning communities, short courses, and long courses.

Spring 2021 Webinar Flyer
Spring 2021 Short Course, Long Course, and Learning Communities

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